Consumers depend on mobile devices and search for online and offline shopping, according to a new Google study.

More than two-thirds of smartphone owners use their devices to purchase products or services weekly, according to the report “Mobile Has Changed How People Get Things Done” from Google Inc. released today.

Google worked with research firm Purchased for the study to find out how consumers use devices throughout the day. The study polled 1,000 U.S. smartphone owners several times a day for a week in Q1 2016, resulting in more than 14,000 responses.

The study finds that consumers are turning to their smartphones to take care of any need they have, including shopping. 69% of consumers say they chose their smartphone to address their needs because it is the closest device to them at the time, 60% say it is the easiest device to use to address their needs, 49% say their smartphone is the device they always used to address their need and 36% say their smartphone provides the best experience to address their need. Consumers could pick more than one response.

In terms of shopping, 92% of people who search on a smartphone make an offline or online purchase related to the search within a day, the study finds. 76% of consumers who search on their smartphones with the term “nearby” in the query visit a related business within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase, according to the study.

In addition, the study finds 70% of consumers take an action on their smartphone, such as conduct a search, look at images online, or use social media before making an in-store purchase.  Of consumers who say they are in an “I need to buy” moment and then purchase offline:

  • 61% visit a retailer’s website or app before purchasing.
  • 45% visit a store or other location.
  • 39% use a search engine.
  • 26% visit a non-retailer website or app.
  • 15% look at photos online.

Consumers could select more than one response.

“Smartphones are a new front door to the businesses around us,” says Lisa Gevelber, vice president of marketing at Google. “We see more and more people turn to their phones prior to making an offline purchase.”

Within the week of the study 87% of smartphone owners visited a retailer’s website or app on their smartphone; 81% of smartphone owners used their phone to find business information, such as store hours and product availability; and 82% used their smartphone to research products or services, according to the study.

Of the consumers who visit a retailer website or app to meet their needs, 53% do so on a smartphone, 11% on a tablet and 39% on desktop. (Consumers could pick more than one response.) Among consumers who visit a retailer’s website or app:

  • 38% do so because they know it will get them the information they needed quickly.
  • 37% say they know it will most likely have the information they are looking for.
  • 25% say they always start there for this type of need.
  • 25% say they find the content most appropriate for this need.
  • 24% say they trust this source the most.

Consumers were asked multiple times a day for a week, so this data represents total responses.


Google is updating its smartphone search algorithm to penalize mobile sites that display pop-over content that covers most of the page’s content.

Google Inc. will ding websites in smartphone organic search results if the page displays a full-screen ad known as an interstitial banner, the search giant says. The change will take effect Jan. 10.

Google’s actions target websites that cover the page the search result directs to with a pop-up or other content that a user must dismiss before accessing the searched-for content. The penalty affects only smartphone search results.

The algorithm change is meant to improve a smartphone user’s experience when she transitions from Google to the web page, Google says. Although the content beneath the interstitial is sometimes still visible and Google can index the content, the search giant deems such displays a poor experience because the consumer cannot interact immediately with the site, Google wrote in its official webmasters blog that announced the change.

This change is significant for retailers. Google dominates mobile search—89% of organic search visits on mobile devices were made via Google in the United States in the first quarter of 2016, according to performance marketing agency Merkle Group Inc. On average, retailers in the Top 1000 receive 10.44% of their traffic from natural search, according to

Plus, e-retailers often use interstitials to promote seasonal sales, gather email subscribers, offer a customer survey or promote users to download an app. Retailers should review their use of pop-over content on pages indexed within mobile search results, and make sure such content complies with Google’s new guidelines, says Brian Klais, founder and president of mobile marketing and mobile search engine optimization firm Pure Oxygen Labs.

“This update will force retailers to rethink best practices in email marketing as well as consumer experience surveys,” Klais says. “Retailers should not assume their high rankings will automatically translate into a hall pass on this new point. Conduct an audit to be sure.”

Pop-ups that encourage a shopper to sign up for an email subscription list—often while offering a pot sweetener such as a percentage off of a purchase—are an effective way for e-retailers to gain subscribers. E-retailers that use them grew their email lists by an average of 47.87% year over year, according email marketing firm Listrak, which surveyed more than 400 of its e-retailer customers last fall.

Google says not all pop-ups will be penalized. It makes exceptions for interstitials that have to appear because of a legal obligation, such as age verification; those that display a login because the content is not publically available, such as a news site behind a paywall; and pop-over displays that take up a “reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible.” Google cites small app-install banners that mobile browsers Safari and Chrome provide as examples of interstitials that consume “reasonable” screen space.

Retailers such as Touch of Modern Inc., No. 259 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, Gap Inc. (No. 20) and Groupon Inc. (No. 26) currently use interstitial tactics. Touch of Modern immediately shows an interstitial banner asking consumers to log in to its members-only site, which is a Google-OKed popup. The retailer is unsure if it will make any changes as it is too early to see how this change will impact them, if at all, a spokeswoman says. Groupon and Gap did not respond to a request for comment.

Interstitials are just one factor among hundreds of signals Google uses for its smartphone search results ranking. If a web page contains an “illegal” pop-up but it is still is a strong match for the search query, the web page may still rank highly, Google says.

Google has made several smartphone-specific algorithm changes within the past few years, including one in September 2015 that similarly penalized retailers for having pop-ups that asked consumers to download a company’s app. This algorithm update will fold that rule into this one, Google says.

“Mobile users have been frustrated by this for years now thanks to companies like Yelp and Trip Advisor and others who have abused interstitials to force mobile users to install the app to proceed,” Klais says.

In fact, when Google implemented the app interstitial penalty in September, Yelp Inc. was outraged. Yet, the customer review site did not change its tactics and continues to show a full-page interstitial prompting consumers to download its app after clicking on a link from mobile search results.

“Google saw its users fleeing mobile search via an exit door that led to apps,” Luther Lowe, vice president of policy at Yelp, told Vertical Web Media last year when Google made the announcement. “To make sure they can continue to extend their search monopoly onto mobile, Google is essentially telling app developers, ‘We’re losing too many of our users to your apps, so your new users will have to go through a doggy door.’”

While businesses may not want to change their marketing tactics, they shouldn’t be surprised by this change, Klais says.

Google wants to maintain their leading position in mobile search, and we all know mobile searchers expect Google to serve relevant results,” Klais says. “Google is saying it may stop ranking your content highly if you are making it difficult for Google searchers to consume indexed pages.”

Tyler White, senior analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, also is not surprised by the change, as Google prohibited the use of interstitials in its Accelerated Mobile Pages project. AMP is an open-source framework that allows businesses, including retailers, to build lightweight mobile pages that load as fast as possible on smartphones.

Google also announced it will remove the mobile-friendly label it added beneath smartphone search results that met this criteria. Being mobile friendly still matters and those standards for the ranking remain, but 85% of pages in organic search results meet Google’s standard and it no longer felt the need to label them.


The average sale price for a stolen credit card paired with personal information on the cardholder is $15.

“Criminals have a clear incentive to target internet retailers,” says Brett McDowell, executive director of the FIDO [Fast Identity Online] Alliance, an interindustry group aimed at developing specifications for better internet security.

That’s because merchants often keep valuable data on their networks—networks that criminals can, and do, break into to steal information and resell it. There were 3,141 confirmed data breaches last year, according to the Verizon 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report. Of those, 370, or about 12%, were of retailers’ systems, and 182 of these retailers confirmed data was stolen. The report did not track whether the breaches were of retailers’ websites or store networks. The more recent major security breaches, such as Target Corp. in 2013 and The Home Depot Inc. in 2014, involved compromised point-of-sale terminals in stores.

Payment data is the prize that most thieves are seeking when they hack into networks, says Al Pascual, senior vice president and research director for the fraud and security practice at Javelin Strategy & Research. Customer data—email addresses, birth dates, shipping addresses, passwords, etc.—is also valuable. The average sale price for a stolen credit card paired with personally identifiable information, such as the card owner’s billing address, was $15 in 2015, according to Intel Corp.’s McAfee Labs research, or about double the price of the credit card information alone.

Obtaining customer login credentials also can prove fruitful because of consumers’ penchant for using the same usernames and passwords on multiple websites, and e-retailers’ hesitation to apply more stringent authentication methods. Internet retailers “are always fighting to reduce their shopping cart abandonment rates, which historically required them to sacrifice some proven user authentication practices to reduce the number of steps required for a customer to complete a purchase,” McDowell says. Those practices include two-factor authentication, wherein a customer provides two means of verifying his identity such as a password and identifying information that might be the name of their first pet, for example, before allowing the consumer to complete a purchase.

63% of confirmed data breaches (across all industries) in 2015 involved leveraging weak, default or stolen passwords, according to the Verizon investigation report. Once these credentials are in hand, experts say the most common target for their use is to access payment information consumers store with merchants or financial institutions.


Mobile wallets are slowly gaining adoption, but retailers’ offerings are currently the winners because they can be easily integrated with loyalty programs, providing an incentive to use them.

Many experts believe that mobile wallets will  continue to grow, and by the end of the decade, be universally adopted. Retailers such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are leading the charge in terms of brand-led mobile wallets and are seeing significant adoption rates while platform-led services such as Apple Pay and Android Pay mobile wallets are lacking in comparison, but will likely see more users in the coming years.

“For merchant wallets, the vested interest in making them work and the ancillary benefits around marketing data garnered from wider use creates a broader demand in an organization to put incentives to put them in place and the mobile wallet investments successful,” said Joseph Walent, senior analyst of emerging technology advisory service at Mercator Advisory Group. “In my opinion, the main reason for the drag in universal wallet space remains lack of acceptance, be it real or perceived, coupled with a lack of marketing effort beyond the initial set-up the phone.

“While merchant specific wallets will likely top out in the next couple years, the usage of universal wallets will expand dramatically by the end of the decade,” he said.

Loyalty and mobile
Retailers can leverage mobile wallets to shape consumer behavior by prompting them to come in stores and purchase with rewards and the process of earning rewards. Mobile wallets and loyalty offer incentives for using the program, therefore consumers are more likely to leverage retailers’ mobile wallet programs as they have more to offer.

The mobile wallet applications are highly beneficial to retailers beyond just rewards programs. Retailers now have the ability to garner a wide range of data to better serve consumers and have the capability to send push notifications and keep them fully connected.

“Mobile wallets are a highly effective customer engagement tool,” said Danielle Brown, vice president of marketing at Points. “Through mobile wallets, marketers can reach consumers at the point of sale, through a channel that is most convenient and relevant to them.

“Not to mention, the convenience of being ‘mobile’ enables marketers to target consumers with greater precision and deliver hyper-relevant offers through geo-location targeting,” she said. “Additionally, when loyalty rewards are integrated with mobile wallets, they can be used to drive specific consumer behaviors.

“For example, marketers can incentivize mobile wallet use by incorporating existing loyalty programs and making targeted offers.” 

Millennials and mobile
Mobile wallets will likely see an uptick in consumer usage once all retailers have accepted NFC terminals and more NFC-enabled phones arrive on the scene. Apple is seeing growth with Apple Pay numbers, but mainly outside of the U.S.

Once consumers in the U.S. have gotten used to mobile payments and mobile wallets, there will be a drastic change with bricks-and-mortar retail. For now, the growth is steady and will likely see significant usage by 2020. 

Another significant factor for mobile wallet adoption is millennials and their spending. Millennials are not spending and valuing deals and savings rather than purchasing, but they are the demographic most likely to take on mobile wallets as they are more comfortable with technology.

As millennials grow older in age and become more comfortable with spending, mobile wallets will likely see greater adoption.

“Mobile wallets are growing steadily, Apple just reported some fairly strong results, particularly in non-U.S. markets,” said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group. “Growth will continue as the next generation of NFC-enabled phones come online and as NFC-capable terminals are installed. It’s not going to be a ‘hockey stick’ growth rate, look for steady growth until around 2019-2020, then usage will ramp up. 

“We need three things to enable mobile wallets,” he said. “Critical mass of NFC-capable terminals at POS, critical mass of NFC-capable smartphones and millennials to move into a spending phase of their lives.

“Once those pieces are in place, mobile payment growth will accelerate.” 



When you read the following list of advantages of ecommerce for businesses and customers, you will get the sense that ecommerce is the holy grail of retail.

1. Overcome Geographical Limitations

If you have a physical store, you are limited by the geographical area that you can service. With an ecommerce website, the whole world is your playground. Additionally, the advent of mcommerce, i.e., ecommerce on mobile devices, has dissolved every remaining limitation of geography.

2. Gain New Customers With Search Engine Visibility

Physical retail is driven by branding and relationships. In addition to these two drivers, online retail is also driven by traffic from search engines. It is not unusual for customers to follow a link in search engine results, and land up on an ecommerce website that they have never heard of. This additional source of traffic can be the tipping point for some ecommerce businesses.

3. Lower Costs

One of the most tangible positives of ecommerce is the lowered cost. A part of these lowered costs could be passed on to customers in the form of discounted prices. Here are some of the ways that costs can be reduced with ecommerce:

  • Advertising and Marketing
    Organic search engine traffic, pay-per-click, and social media traffic are some of the advertising channels that can be cost-effective.
  • Personnel
    The automation of checkout, billing, payments, inventory management, and other operational processes, lowers the number of employees required to run an ecommerce setup.
  • Real Estate
    This one is a no-brainer. An ecommerce merchant does not need a prominent physical location.

4. Locate the Product Quicker

It is no longer about pushing a shopping cart to the correct aisle, or scouting for the desired product. On an ecommerce website, customers can click through intuitive navigation or use a search box to immediately narrow down their product search. Some websites remember customer preferences and shopping lists to facilitate repeat purchase.

5. Eliminate Travel Time and Cost

It is not unusual for customers to travel long distances to reach their preferred physical store. Ecommerce allows them to visit the same store virtually, with a few mouse clicks.

6. Provide Comparison Shopping

Ecommerce facilitates comparison shopping. There are several online services that allow customers to browse multiple ecommerce merchants and find the best prices.

7. Enable Deals, Bargains, Coupons, and Group Buying

Though there are physical equivalents to deals, bargains, coupons, and group buying,online shopping makes it much more convenient. For instance, if a customer has a deep discount coupon for turkey at one physical store and toilet paper at another, she may find it infeasible to avail of both discounts. But the customer could do that online with a few mouse-clicks.

8. Provide Abundant Information

There are limitations to the amount of information that can be displayed in a physical store. It is difficult to equip employees to respond to customers who require information across product lines. Ecommerce websites can make additional information easily available to customers. Most of this information is provided by vendors and does not cost anything to create or maintain.

9. Create Targeted Communication

Using the information that a customer provides in the registration form, and by placing cookies on the customer’s computer, an ecommerce merchant can access a lot of information about its customers. This, in turn, can be used to communicate relevant messages.

10. Remain Open All the Time

Store timings are now 24/7/365. Ecommerce websites can run all the time. From the merchant’s point of view, this increases the number of orders they receive. From the customer’s point of view, an “always open” store is more convenient.

11. Create Markets for Niche Products

Buyers and sellers of niche products can find it difficult to locate each other in the physical world. Online, it is only a matter of the customer searching for the product in a search engine. One example could be the purchase of obsolete parts. Instead of trashing older equipment for lack of spares, today we can locate parts online with great ease.



Smartphone and tablets dominate retail search queries for location-specific keywords, such as “where to buy” and “24 hours.”

The majority of online retail searches are made by consumers on their mobile devices, according to a new study from web measurement firm Hitwise, a division of Connexity Inc.

56% of online retail searches are made on a smartphone or tablet, according to the study, which looked at hundreds of thousands online search queries across 3.5 million smartphones and tablets between April 10-May 7 and made by consumers based in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Hitwise considers smartphones and tablets as mobile devices.

When looking at specific keywords retail consumers search, location-based retail searches are the mostly made on mobile devices, according to the study. 82% of searches that include the words “24 hours” are made on mobile devices. Other mobile-dominated location keywords include “where to buy …” (84% mobile), “near me” (79% mobile) and “hours” (82% mobile).

Many retail mobile search queries occur while consumers are in a physical store, according to the study. 77% of retail searches that mention the words “coupon,” “return policy” and “price match” are made on a mobile device.

“Especially for traditional brick-and-mortar establishments, the smartphone has become an indispensable shopping tool providing consumers—sometimes within feet of a register—with information or offers that could seal or jeopardize a transaction,” says John Fetto, senior analyst, research and marketing, at Hitwise.

73% of searches with the words “sale” and 68% of “discount” searches are made on a mobile device, according to the study. However, 59% of searches that include “promo code” are made on a desktop.

In addition, 82% of retail searches with the word “reviews” are made on a smartphone or tablet, and 82% of searches for “engagement rings” are made on a mobile device.

While more than half of retail searches are made on mobile devices, mobile devices’ share of overall search is lower than many other industries, such as food and beverage, in which 72% of searches are made on a mobile device. Other verticals with higher mobile search queries include health (68% of searches are mobile,) sports (68%), news and media (64%), lifestyle (62%) and automotive (62%).


MUMBAI: Stock trading through mobile phones is fast picking up across the country as the increasing popularity of smartphones has made it simpler for investors to execute trades through the device. Turnover through mobile trading as a percentage of turnover clocked by retail investors, who mostly use smartphones to trade, has almost doubled in the last two years, according to an ET study.

Almost 30% of trading by retail investors in the cash segment is taking place through mobile phones. In futures and options, about 35% of the retail activity is happening through such apps.

“Many a days, a quarter of the trades is happening through mobile platform,” said Chaitanya Shahare, head-products, IIFL Markets.

Brokers say the highest growth in mobile phone trading is from smaller towns, mainly where there are no branches.

Out of the 7,00,000 downloads of IIFL’s trading apps in the last one year, majority has been done from the tier-2 and tier-3 towns.

Market regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) allowed brokers to launch mobile trading in August 2010. The average daily turnover through mobile trading on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) in the cash segment has jumped to Rs 600 crore in the last two years. That is about 3.2% of the total turnover. In June 2014, it was less than 1% or Rs 116 crore. Brokerages attribute the trend to the growing usage of smartphones.

Geojit BNP Paribas Securities has seen an 85% growth in mobile trading turnover in the last two years. “Today 28% of our cash transaction and 35% of the F&O trading are done through mobile application,” said A Balakrishnan, technology head, Geojit BNP Paribas. “The numbers are increasing rapidly as more and more users adopt smartphones,” he said.

Trading through smartphones is more convenient for investors unlike the conventional route of getting trades executed through brokers or relationship managers. Brokers say retail investors enjoy the anonymity and speed of trading through their own smartphones.

The outlook for mobile-based trading appears to be rosy with brokers expecting such trades to contribute around 50% of their total trading within a year or two. “Currently, we get close to 20% of our daily turnover by volume from mobile and we expect this to increase to 40% by 2017 and later grow to 60%” said Vinay Agrawal, CEO, Angel Broking.

Kamlesh Rao, CEO, Kotak Securities, agrees that the mobile trading should see robust growth over the next one year. “Mobile trading is one of the fastest growing business segments. I expect web-based trading to remain flat for the industry over the next one year, but mobile trading should see a growth of 30-40%.”

Brokerage fees on trades done through mobile trading is cheaper than those executed by the brokers. For instance, Angel Broking offers a discount of 20% for trades done through their mobile app and online platform. “With massive mobile penetration across India, mobile trading is going to change the broking industry forever in a positive way, introducing more people to stocks at a fingertip and disseminating more information than ever,” said Shahare.


Soon it will seem almost quaint there was a time we looked at voice assistants as virtual friends who lived in our pockets and answered our questions.

After all, in a few short years, voice-enabled assistants like like Alexa and Siri have far surpassed the skillset of any real-life human assistant. And that likely means this is the point for an obligatory reference to Samantha in Her or Jarvis in Iron Man.

And that’s because voice technology really does have the potential to change everything.

Case in point: Because voice assistants can help consumers function in hands- and even eyes-free scenarios, a good early example of their potential is in an application like cooking, said Joe Migliozzi, managing director and global lead at Shop+, which is the dedicated retail and ecommerce arm of media and marketing services firm Mindshare.

“As these devices become a part of everyone’s kitchen, they can become a third hand, telling consumers recipes, reminding them when to stir the dish and explaining potential wine pairings for the meal,” he said. “This will be a big opportunity for food brands.”

And, according to Christina Ottomanelli, associate media director at marketing agency MMI Agency, voice-activated to-do and grocery lists are also becoming popular. Which, in theory, means someday even the wallets and purses of the more old-fashioned among us won’t be littered with scraps of paper.

“I imagine that data is collected from these to-do lists and will eventually lead to brands having the opportunity to promote their products [and] services based on a user’s needs,” she added. “Currently on Alexa, users are able to set reminders to restock essentials. I imagine that in the future, in conjunction with Amazon Dash, brands will have the ability to take the lead and set purchase reminders proactively on behalf of users.”

But it’s not just about food. Another advantage is that voice assistants can recognize different consumers and adjust their responses accordingly, which provides a more personalized experience for each user.

Purna Virji, senior manager of PPC training at Microsoft and a staunch voice advocate, used the example of asking for recommendations for a good book.

“It will show me, my husband and my son different recommendations if we talk to the voice assistant,” she said.

And while this certainly provides a good user experience for all, it’s really the tip of the iceberg in terms of how voice assistants will impact consumers’ lives going forward. To wit:

No more wallets

According to Chuck Fletcher, technology director of emerging experiences at interactive agency Razorfish, voice has proven to be an effective biometric identifier as secure as a fingerprint.

“A voice print can be securely kept on file and matched, allowing you to pay for items via your voice,” he said. “In fact, Google released an app earlier this year called Hands Free that lets users buy items in a few local stores in the San Francisco area with only the app and your voice.”

And that means George Costanza’s wallet is even closer to becoming a relic of a bygone era.

What’s more, Valerie Lisyansky, partner at product studio Swarm, said we may soon reach a point when we can simply command, “Pay bills,” and never have to waste any more time than that on creditors ever again.

“If we can speak and tell an intelligent system what we want, it can execute in the background without the need for consumers to get off the couch,” she added.

No more screens

But that’s not all. Voice assistants may also prompt the disappearance of screens as we know them as consumers ask their devices questions and receive verbal answers when, say, they are driving.

David Lau, vice president and head of paid search and programmatic media at digital marketing agency iCrossing, pointed to Alexa.

“The fact that it’s screenless – and Amazon’s most successful product – goes to show there is something to be said about having a virtual assistant on standby that you can activate by talking into the air,” he said.

Similarly, Lisyansky noted existing payment integrations in voice-enabled devices foreshadow a future in which consumers aren’t “limited by tactical user interfaces” and can do what they want with voice commands.

“I.e., I want something, I ask for it. I want an Uber…I just say it out loud. Swap Uber for any service or delivery you can imagine, like turning the heat up, the lights off, the music on,” she said. “Voice assistants have become their own interface — one that relies on carefully crafted commands rather than touch. Why should I hit a light switch, or even tap an icon on my phone, when I can easily say, ‘Lights, on’?”

Fletcher agreed voice technology gives consumers the freedom to simply speak what they want.

“Eventually, this feature might be built into our homes with all rooms being voice-enabled by default – to a point where we don’t even know where the microphones are,” he added.

Migliozzi agreed voice assistants will play a much larger role within connected homes as voice starts connecting all the lighting in the house, as well as cars in the driveway, security systems and entertainment devices.

Tony Briceno, head of mobile technology at digital agency Carrot Creative, however, said this bright future depends on as-of-yet-unmade advancements in machine learning, artificial and virtual intelligence and organic sensors – and it’s only then that voice will become an interface for everything. Indeed, hurdles remain for voice.

“One day we could all have personal AI assistants just like Tony Stark’s,” he said. “The voice assistant is an input just like a key on a keyboard, a tap on your phone or a dial on the radio.”

No more funnel

Amazon Prime customers that have a one-click payment method can already order physical products via Alexa and this may be a sign of further changes to the good ol’ purchase funnel.

In fact, Anthony said he is seeing a trend toward the collapse of the funnel altogether with voice search. In other words, consumers can search, browse and make purchases within the same interface, which changes the game for brands, marketers, retailers and platforms entirely.

“Currently you can already [search and browse], but you need an app for the checkout,” he said. “However, soon you’ll check out in that same interface [with] no web involved and voice as the interface throughout.”

No more search box

Voice assistants may also spur the death of the search box as we know it simply because it’s easier to verbalize queries than type them in many cases. And that means search engines cannot rest on their laurels as a consumer destination forever.

Instead, customers will access whatever apps or assistants most easily enable them to accomplish a given task, such as using the Zappos app to look for shoes rather than typing a shoe query into Google.

In a recent Bing Q&A, internet marketing consultant and SEO Ammon Johns noted the future of search could be less about links and more about providing information and empowering consumers to do things, which is driven, in part, by digital assistants. And that could mean that we’ll someday lose the search engine as a destination because information is on tap wherever we go.

Better quality of life for the elderly and disabled

And on the more feel-good than commercial end of the spectrum, voice assistants could also make life easier for the elderly and disabled who are no longer tethered to expensive voice tools with limited functionality.

“Voice assistants like Echo and devices like Android and Apple phones with built-in functionality have provided amazing leaps forward for people with impaired sight or mobility, as well as those with limited use of their hands,” Fletcher said.

Further, he said voice assistants are just the beginning as devices that incorporate artificial intelligence are getting smarter and becoming more easily accessible.

“The HoloLens, for example, will continue to become more affordable and widely available,” he said. “Voice can be a powerful tool in helping the sight impaired ‘hear’ what is around them with sound feedback — like dolphins or bats — and smart cameras that allow voice assistants to vocalize what is being seen.”

But beyond just enhancing quality of life, a voice assistant could also be deployed by an elderly or disabled person who needs to contact emergency services, Lisyansky said.

“A user [wouldn’t] need to pick up a phone and dial 911, but instead could say a code phrase to summon help, similar in function and use to the old Life Alert pendants, ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,’” she said.



We all love free WiFi, don´t we? At work, at a friends’s place, in a hotel lounge when on a vacation. While the idea of superfast WiFi in a random coffee shop at no extra cost is tempting, there are chances you are putting your smartphone at potential risks including malfunctioning due to virus, loss of private data, and even hacking.

The cost of internet browsing over mobile carriers is still expensive and using open WiFi, especially when on roaming, makes for a sensible choice. While not using your smartphone when on a vacation sounds like a nice digital detox, there are ways you can still use that free and fast hotel WiFi and still be safe from possible hacking or virus attack.

1. Don’t Trust

Some WiFi networks could be completely bogus and set up purely for nabbing data. Don’t be afraid to question a network’s legitimacy. Mostly the data asked by these networks include email address along with mobile number. It is extremely tempting to simply fill in the details to login the network just to send that one quick official mail or post a selfie, these are often followed by promotional emails and advertisements. In cases when you do end up receiving newsletters or promotional emails or messages from the hotel you stayed in or the coffee shop you visited, it is best to immediately unsubscribe from their mailing list and alongside also inform your network carrier to activate DND service. Also, it is extremely important to keep an eye for emails which ask you for a feedback which include specific and unrelated queries.

2. Sign Out After Use

If using free WiFi, make sure you’ve signed out of all apps before doing so. This ensures that the network doesn’t bypass the security and make the apps vulnerable to external access. Many a times we keep logged into apps permanently, especially social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., so that we don’t have to put in login credentials again and again. But doing so only makes the accounts prone to hacking and misuse. While using public WiFi, it is more critical as most of these accounts are interlinked and branch out of a single email address.

3. Browse Securely

A user’s internet browsing behavior is closely monitored by the network as well as the sites you visit which are interlinked. For example, if you are visiting a shopping site while browsing through your social media account, chances are you will be shown advertisements related to your previous searches. So it is wiser to stick to using a browser, don’t visit sites that require a login and only visit those that you know are legitimate, think twice before clicking on any link. At times seemingly harmless links are booby-trapped and lead you to unsafe websites which can in turn plant virus into your device or get unauthorized access to personal data. To thwart this, one can consider using a VPN app (Virtually Private Network) for secure browsing. Usually, to have a secure browsing experience over VPN the end user has to pay for extended subscriptions or restrict their usage. But Opera has recently integrated free and unlimited VPN to its browser making public WiFi usage more secure.

4. Use Mobile Data for Transactions

Make it a rule to never use public WiFi when making financial transactions. If you have to access financial information, accept the roaming fee and do it over 3G or 4G/LTE even if it costs you more. Also, make sure to use a secure browser while making online payments and opt for multi-level authentication process to be fully sure of security.

5. Use Updated Apps

Having updated app not only makes the user experience smoother, it also cleans the app of bugs or issues which may put the device data at risk. Make sure all apps and operating systems are fully up to date. You can also have a form of anti-virus app running on your smartphone to be aware of any malicious activity.